Thursday, May 6, 2010

Being Effective

A few weeks back, Girls Write Now hosted a fantastic guest at one of their workshops - Katie Orenstein of the Op-ed Project. She's a wonderful speaker - witty, clear, engaging. She spoke about some of the reasons women might not contribute to the Op-ed sections of newspapers like the NY Times, the Washington Post and other large scale distribution newspapers. Here's a summary of the problem according to the site:
"The op-ed pages of our nation’s newspapers are overwhelmingly dominated—80% or more—by men. Because the op-ed pages feed all other media, the under-representation of women here perpetuates and exaggerates the under-representation of women in larger ways. For example, men are:
• 84% of guests on influential Sunday morning political talk shows on TV
• 85% of Hollywood producers
• 85% of nonfiction books on The New York Times best-selling
• 85-90% of radio producers
• 83% of congress
In short, public debate all but excludes half the population."

Interesting stats, no? Says quite a lot about how far we still have to go in the push for equal representation--on oh-so-many fronts.

One of the (other) interesting things Katie said during her presentation that really stuck with me, and that I think is applicable to blogging and many other things as well, is that she learned a hard lesson after one particular piece she wrote about Sex and the City. She realized, after the onslaught of letters and emails she received (from unhappy readers) in response to the piece, that she had quite possibly alienated four out of five of her readers. And that's when it struck her that perhaps it was more important to be effective rather than right.

True in so many areas of life - from blogging to receiving feedback on one's writing, to dealing with friends and partners, to communicating with children and teens... One of the things I try to keep in mind when I'm in the heat of the moment - when I'm angry and passionate about something (whether it's with my spouse, kids, friends, on the blog, whatever) or when my buttons have been pushed and it's hard to see beyond my own indignation - is that my goal is not to vent, it is to be effective. To grow, to push for change, create awareness and help build some sort of connection.

Thanks, Katie, for reminding me of the difference, and for spotlighting an important area more women can become active - an area that can help shape the world around us to reflect the sets of values and priorities of an entire population, not just a select few.

1 comment:

Dee / Cloth Company said...

I heard an NPR piece recently on how underrepresented women are among journalists, AND the people that journalists interview to provide 'expert' commentary. sad, disappointing.

very good point about recognizing how much more important it can be to let go of defenses and needing to be right... one way to look at it is one can choose to be right or choose to be free (I didn't make that up -- but it's a good one).

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